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4.0 out of 5 stars Mere Lewis?, 24 Jun. 2012
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This review is from: C. S. Lewis & Francis Schaeffer: Lessons for a New Century from the Most Influential Apologists of Our Time (Paperback)
C.S. Lewis is easily the most well-known Christian apologist and writer. Like many people outside the Christian fold, I've probably read Lewis even before I started reading the actual Bible he was defending! Francis Schaeffer is another well known apologist, at least in the United States. Here in Sweden, by contrast, Schaeffer is virtually unknown, although (curiously) the very first Christian book I've ever read was authored by a former L'Abri student, a certain Stefan Gustavsson.

"C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer" by Scott Burson and Jerry Walls is a book summarizing and comparing the two thinkers and their respective apologetics. Personally, I found the book a very easy read, but other reviewers apparently fought with it longer. I'm therefore not sure who could be best served by this work - perhaps students of theology who already have a working knowledge of Lewis and/or Schaeffer? I think Burson and Walls do a good job summing up Lewis' ideas, but since I've only read one work by Schaeffer, I can't really vouch for their description of him.

Lewis and Schaeffer had very different theological perspectives and backgrounds. Lewis was a well-educated Oxford literature professor and something of a bon vivant, while Schaeffer was teetotaller, had an American blue-collar background and spent most of his life evangelizing people from all walks of life. He also made forays into partisan politics, something Lewis never did. Frankly, Schaeffer seems to have been somewhat eccentric, as well. But then, perhaps Lewis' friendship with Owen Barfield, Charles Williams and J. R. R. Tolkien could be seen as pretty weird, too! Strangely, the two men never met, despite being rough contemporaries, Schaeffer even visiting Oxford at one point. Within American evangelicalism, both Lewis and Schaeffer seem to be about equally popular, which may explain the need for a book of this sort. (In more intellectual circles, they are about equally unpopular, their respective apologetics being seen as too populist and unsophisticated.)

Theologically, Lewis was a conservative but nevertheless pretty broad-minded Anglican, while Schaeffer was a strict Calvinist and "fundamentalist". He had been educated by the likes of J. Gresham Machen and Cornelius Van Til. Indeed, Burson and Walls have great difficulties in harmonizing the two apologists (their ostensible aim). On virtually all theological issues, they seem to side with Lewis: inclusivism, libertarian freedom, the atonement, natural law, the problem of pain, the "errancy" of scripture, etc. Often, the authors sharply criticize Schaeffer. They find his Reformed views of predestination and election particularly hard to swallow. However, Burson and Walls also believe that Schaeffer was contradictory on a number of points, claiming that he somehow preached both libertarian freedom and predestination, much to the chagrin of his former teacher Van Til. Essentially, Burson's and Walls' irenic harmonization of the two men takes the form of combing the (supposedly) Lewisian side of Schaeffer with Lewis himself, while rejecting the more specifically Calvinist ideas. I'm not sure if Schaeffer's admirers would agree with this approach...

Interestingly, Burson and Walls don't define Schaeffer as a "presuppositionalist", but rather as a "verificationist". Van Til is once again called in as a hostile witness. Apparently, the old Dutchman could be quite mean if you didn't follow *his* kind of apologetics to the T! I think the authors are on to something here. Schaeffer's method of apologetics does seem different from Van Til's (or Jonathan Sarfati's, for that matter). I state that with the reservation that I only read one book each by Van Til and Schaeffer, although I've read more than my fair share of Sarfati...

"C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer" is a relatively good book, but it's really a sneak attack on Schaeffer from a broadly Lewisian perspective, while being marketed as a balanced study somehow harmonizing both. I'm not a Christian, and I admit that Lewis strikes me as more congenial than Schaeffer (minus the beers, cigars and that crackpot friend of his, Owen-something), but why is a polemical attack on Schaeffer posing as something else entirely? Is it because evangelicals wouldn't buy the book, had it been called "C.S. Lewis VERSUS Francis Schaeffer"?

The back matter informs us that Burson is employed by a Wesleyan university and writes for a C.S. Lewis Society, while Walls is a professor who organizes regular Lewis seminars at another Wesleyan institution. In other words, the authors are Arminian heretics! Small wonder they don't like Schaeffer, and I don't mean the knickers, LOL.

In a sense, this book is "mere Lewis".

That being said, I nevertheless recommend "C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer" for those seriously interested in a systematic treatment of the two authors defences of Christianity, their potential application today, and the differences between the two thinkers.
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